Spotlight On Linda McFarlane
I started volunteering with Macmillan after spending most of my working life working as a Nursery Nurse with West Lothian Council.
I retired from my post about 3 years ago and after taking time to settle into retirement I decided that I would like to spend some of my retirement doing voluntary work.
I thought about volunteering with Macmillan after a conversation with a friend who already was part of the Macmillan team and felt that it was something that I would be interested in doing. After applying to Macmillan I was accepted to take part in the training. This involved 2 1/2 days of fairly intense training which covered a range of different subjects and areas to help us in our role as a volunteer. The Macmillan co-ordinators were very supportive and encouraging throughout our training and always available to answer any questions or anything else that might crop up. After the initial training, would- be volunteers then had the opportunity to shadow current, more experienced, volunteers to get an idea of what it would be like.
I have now been volunteering with Macmillan for just over a year, offering information and support to people who come into the Macmillan hubs in various locations throughout West Lothian. We are there to give service users information about the different types of support that Macmillan can provide, from giving out leaflets/ books on a wide range of topics relating to cancer eg. different types of cancer & treatments, how it can affect your work and relationships, dietary needs & recipe books, different types of support for family members etc but also to be there as a listening ear to cancer patients, their families and anyone affected by cancer. We can also arrange appointments with the Macmillan benefits adviser for service users. Sometimes service users just like to come in, even when they have completed their treatment and on the road to recovery, for a chat over a cup of tea and to keep in touch with the volunteers who have provided support during the course of their illness.
Volunteers usually work in twos and there is always a co-ordinator on hand to help provide further advice or support, if necessary. The other volunteers are all very friendly and we are there to support each other during our volunteer sessions which usually last 2/3 hours . The sessions are held over 5 days (mornings and afternoons) but it is up to each volunteer to decide how many sessions per week they would like to do. I usually do one session per week and this also allows me plenty of time for family and other interests that I have.
On-going training courses are available to volunteers who would like to increase their knowledge or keep their skills updated.
One of the main reasons that I decided to volunteer with Macmillan is due to the fact that I lost my sister to cancer 15 years ago. At the time of her diagnosis there was very little information about Pancreatic cancer (apart from what she received from the hospital) or support available for patients and their families. It was a very difficult time for the whole family and personally I felt I had nowhere to turn to get support to enable me to support my sister. I feel that with these Macmillan hubs there is now much more support readily available for anyone affected by cancer as well as the patients themselves. The hubs provide a safe, welcoming environment for everyone whether it's for a one off visit or for frequent visits over a period of time.
I enjoy working with the other volunteers and enjoy meeting the people who come in to use the hubs. I feel that we are there providing a much needed service for people when, at a very difficult, stressful and worrying time, they don't know where to turn to get support and information.